The Order of Maesters are an order of scholars, healers, and learned men in the Seven Kingdoms. Due to their scientific and intellectual pursuits, they are sometimes referred to as "the knights of the mind".
Focusing on scientific knowledge and disdaining belief in magic, in the present day the Order of Maesters has largely eclipsed the older Alchemists' Guild, which claims to possess arcane magical knowledge, but whose number, power, and abilities have waned over the centuries.
The maesters are a secular organization, not a religious order, though they do swear sacred oaths to follow the duties and restrictions of their office. Unlike certain other organizations such as the Faith of the Seven, which has male and female priests, women are not allowed to join the maesters.